You’re feeling pretty confident as you walk into your medical school interview– but then you meet your interviewer. “Why did it take you so long to get here?! I’ve been sitting here, waiting and waiting, and I’m in so much pain.”
Welcome to the world of the MMI. The Multiple Mini Interview, commonly known as the MMI, is a newer type of medical school interview, and it’s increasingly being used in U.S. and Canadian medical schools. Instead of sitting across from a desk and speaking to one single interviewer, the MMI is set up so that students rotate through stations.
Some of these stations ask you to role-play in a particular scenario. For example, you might be asked to play the role of a nurse called to the bedside of an angry patient. Other stations ask you to complete tasks, such as providing instructions to another applicant on how to create an origami figure. Other stations are dedicated to specific questions, which may include ethical dilemmas, behavioral interview questions, or even traditional interview questions.
Although the specific format varies among schools, most will have you rotate through 5 to 8 stations.
If that doesn’t sound challenging enough, what makes it really difficult is that the scenarios aren’t released ahead of time. In most cases, you’ll read the prompt and then have just two minutes to prepare yourself.
Which brings us to the question that may be at the top of your mind right now: If you don’t know the scenarios in advance, and you’re only given two minutes to prep, is there any way to actually prepare for this type of interview?
Absolutely. Because these prompts aren’t published ahead of time, you can’t formulate your responses to specific scenarios. But–and this is an important point–that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare.
These three strategies are a helpful place to start.
1. Practice giving short talks. If you’ve never practiced speaking in a formal setting, this is especially important. With a colleague, start working on your delivery and voice. Are you making appropriate eye contact? Are you speaking at a good pace? Do you sound confident, knowledgeable, and not too anxious? Speaking is a skill like any other; it can be improved with practice.
It’s especially important to get a feel for how long you’ve been speaking. Use a timer and learn what speaking for 5 to 8 minutes feels like.
2. Read up on current events and issues in health care, such as ethics, policy, and economics. For this interview cycle, I would particularly recommend reading up on issues surrounding the pandemic, such as mask mandates, vaccine hesitancy, the obligations of developed countries, the balance between public health and economic concerns, and more. Also read up on some of the important issues of the last few years, such as the Affordable Care Act and the needs of an aging population. It’s also important to have a working knowledge of the major ethical principles underlying medical care and to learn about issues of autonomy, informed consent, and confidentiality.
Beyond just reading, start thinking about how you would speak about these topics. You don’t have to practice responding to every issue, but it is helpful to take out notecards and start plotting out a few points. It’s also very helpful to reflect on your own shadowing, volunteering, or work experiences and how these might relate. Personal experiences are valuable, and this is the time to start thinking about situations when you personally had to deal with an angry customer or an apathetic colleague.
It’s also helpful to talk about these topics. Do you have friends or family members who love to talk about current events? This is the time to start hearing varying opinions so that you can develop more nuanced views of these important issues.
3. Beyond the news, look over sample MMI scenarios. There are a number of practice MMI prompts that are provided by medical schools on their websites. Look over these, ponder them, and then jot down a few major points. If you’re reading the news, maybe write down a few topics that would be great for an MMI scenario, and then think about how you might respond. For example, the vaccine mandate for employees of Houston Methodist Hospital made the national news. If you were asked to set up a hospital committee to create a set of guidelines around this issue, how might you respond?
The bottom line is that while you can’t predict exactly which MMI prompt you’ll be given, you can absolutely start preparing for the MMI. Become familiar with the format, practice your delivery, start reading about issues in health care, and start thinking about major points to discuss around these issues. While this won’t take away your anxiety, it can absolutely help improve your confidence and performance–so that the next time you’re faced with an “angry” interviewer, you’ll be prepared.
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